I’ve eaten countless bowls of Fasolakia in Greece. I enjoy it best when I’m sitting outdoors under a shade tree, eating slowly to make it last, sipping wine, and watching the world go by.
In Alaska, I make Fasolakia often. Our climate may not be commodious, but the flavors of Fasolakia bring me straight back to Greece even when it’s snowing outside.
During the many Greek Orthodox fasting periods, green beans are braised in tomato sauce seasoned with fresh herbs. Sometimes potato, zucchini, or other vegetables are included in the stew. Although they don’t contain meat, these slow-cooked braises are full of flavor.
At other times of the year, green beans are braised with lamb or beef. Both are delicious. In Greece, I make this with low cost, high quality local lamb. In Alaska, I prefer using beef due to the cost and quality of lamb available in my state.
Greeks would say this dish is made with veal (moschari - μοσχάρι) rather than beef (vothino - βοδινό, a term you rarely hear in Greece). Greek “veal,” however, is very different than what is called veal in American markets.
American veal comes from milk fed calves between one and three months old, and its flavor is very mild. Greek veal, on the other hand, generally comes from yearlings or older cattle. It’s flavorful meat and much closer to what is sold as beef in American markets than it is to American veal.
Costco, my local warehouse store, carries reasonably priced boneless short ribs; I like using them for stew because they have more flavor than leaner cuts of beef. The short ribs’ fat and connective tissue melt into the braising liquid, leaving the meat fork tender. The fat can easily be skimmed off before adding green beans to the stew.
Normally, I prefer cooking meat on the bone, since bones add good flavor and texture. It is quicker and easier, however, to use boneless cuts for stew, which is what I do when I don’t have time to fiddle with removing the bones.
Beef and Green Bean Stew is wonderful with feta cheese, olives, plenty of crusty bread for sopping up the flavorful sauce, and a glass of full-bodied red wine.
Greek Beef and Green Bean Stew (Μοσχάρι με Φασολάκια)
I usually make this recipe with fresh green beans and it’s fantastic, but the glorious sauce makes even frozen green beans taste amazingly good. Sometimes I add potatoes, which contrast nicely with the vivid tomato sauce. To include potatoes, add an additional cup of beef stock and 1 pound of peeled potatoes cut into 1” – 2” chunks; I prefer using Yukon Gold or red potatoes. Add the potatoes at the same time as the beans.
2 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs or other beef suitable for stewing
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups diced onion, 1/2” dice
1 cup diced carrots, 1/2” dice
1 cup diced celery, 1/2” dice
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups ground tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 cups beef stock
1 pound fresh, or 10 ounces frozen and thawed, green beans
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
Wash and dry the beef, trim off and discard any large pieces of fat, and season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and brown the meat on all sides; do this in batches to ensure the meat browns rather than steams. When the meat is browned, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan.
Stir in the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté until the onions soften. Use the moisture from the onions to help scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the carrots and celery and continue to sauté until the onions begin to brown. Stir in the garlic and Aleppo pepper and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in the wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half. Return the meat and its juices to the pan, along with the tomatoes and beef stock; stir well to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pan, turn down the heat to low, and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, depending on the cut of beef.
While the beef is simmering, wash the green beans. If you are using fresh beans, break off both ends, and break in half. If you are using frozen beans, cut them in half.
After the meat has simmered for two hours, skim off any fat floating on the surface of the stew. Stir in the green beans, parsley, and mint. Continue to simmer for 45 – 60 minutes, or until the beans are very tender. Taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.